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European Commission approval of Permanent TSB’s restructuring plan is still some months away, despite the bank’s hopes that it could be achieved by the end of December, European Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia told a meeting of the Association of European Journalists in Dublin on Monday, December 5 that the plan should be accepted “hopefully, in a few months”.

“We are waiting for the presentation of clear ideas for the restructuring of this institution,” he said. “We are not yet at the end of the discussions with Permanent TSB.” Mr Almunia, indicated that AIB’s restructuring proposals would be considered in a similar timeframe

Mr Almunia said his department will “factor in” last month’s reversal of troubled Newbridge Credit Union into Permanent TSB, while also taking close account of the Central Bank’s recent balance sheet assessments of the sector. The Commissioner declined to be specific about possible plans to separate out Permanent TSB’s loss-making tranche of tracker mortgages, aside from acknowledging that “these are things under discussion”. “We don’t impose any kind of system,” he said.

Mr Almunia said he was aware of the lack of competition in Ireland’s banking sector following the collapse of banks like Anglo and Danske as well as the shutdown of some credit unions. But he said the market and main players have to be reformed before competition becomes the focus, describing the situation as “improving”.

Also at the December lunch, Honorary AEJ Membership Certificates were presented by Irish Section Chairman Martin Alioth to Andy Shepard and James Downey in recognition of their many years of commitment to the association.